Executive Summary

Our mission in this report is to identify countries that are attractive destinations for US exports and for foreign direct investment (FDI). The expansion in size of a global middle class of consumers, coupled with continued reductions in barriers to cross- border trade and investment, make 2015 a better time than ever for mid-sized and even small US-based firms to consider exporting for the first time or investing directly abroad. But as the range of plausible destinations for US exports and investments has grown, the difficulty of identifying markets that are the best match for the US exporter or investor has increased accordingly. A wealth of comparative economic, business and political data is now readily available, thanks to the increasing power of ‘big data’ and the increasing willingness of public and private organizations this proliferation of available data, it becomes correspondingly more difficult to sift through the volumes of information and decide which are the most useful criteria to use as filters when making choices regarding where to target exports and FDI, when other, more business-specific factors are equal. We have the capacity to assemble and analyze data and identify important patterns and rankings. This report is intended to offer ideas that will stimulate discussion and further research in board rooms, C-suites and strategic planning teams.

The coming year offers investors and exporters an environment of newly re-established stability amidst increasing uncertainties. The US economy is growing and now once again creating jobs at a steady pace. Many equities markets around the world are not at historically high multiples, even as absolute levels are at or near historic peaks. At the same time continued financial instability and slow economic growth in the Euro zone combine with continued political instability in Ukraine, the Levant, the Sahel region and the western Pacific maritime region to push market volatility to levels higher than that to which investors have become accustomed in the period since the end of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2015 the value of the US dollar is higher than it has been against most of the world’s major currencies for several years. A strong dollar has the advantage of making US dollar prices attractive for foreign investment assets. Yet at the same time it raises the earnings performance expectations for those assets in foreign currencies if earnings are subsequently to be repatriated and thus converted back into dollars. A high dollar also makes US exports correspondingly less competitive on global markets, making the choice of optimal export markets more critical.

We screened 43 large and middle-sized economies worldwide to generate our top picks of the best country destinations for US exports and US foreign direct investment, both regionally and globally, based upon a range of metrics of demographics, economic performance, good governance and openness to business. The table below summarizes our regional and global top picks.

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